NHS board's 30-minute ambulance drop-off rule 'leaves staff in tears'

Designed to prevent ambulances from stacking up outside hospitals, the new policy means ambulances have to drop off patients within 30 minutes.

A trade union is calling for NHS Grampian to put plans for 30-minute ambulance drop-off times on hold after the plan left stressed “staff in tears”.

Designed to prevent ambulances from stacking up outside hospitals, Unison said some patients will be treated in corridors while waiting to be admitted.

The 30/30 project will require paramedics to unload patients into the emergency department within 30 minutes of arrival, and for them to be moved to a ward within another half hour.

Staff responded with shock, to be perfectly honest,” said Unison regional organiser Simon Watson.

“We heard about it from many staff, many of whom were in tears when they heard this was going to be happening because they’re still extremely stressed.

“The legacy of Covid is still affecting them. Absence through stress is up 45% on last year, and there’s a shortage of staff anyway.

“Staff are struggling to be able to cope at the moment and then this is going to be put on top of that.”

According to the union, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary already has “significant” amounts of corridor care.

The new standard operating procedures suggest giving patients in corridors a handbell to attract attention.

Unison said the policy was risking patient safety with more being treated in corridors.

Mr Watson said: “Nobody likes to see ambulances queueing outside a hospital, but the reason is that there is not enough health staff to provide adequate care.

“Moving people inside the hospital will not conjure up more people to treat them.

“Instead, hard pressed staff will be pushed to breaking point, and patients safety will be put at risk.

“How bad are things when staff are being told to give patients a handbell to attract attention? The health board should be honest about the situation, declare a major incident, and move to prioritise life threatening cases.”

The strategy is set to be put in place on Monday with no end date confirmed.

NHS Grampian hopes the project will allow paramedics to get back on the road, to attend to more patients.

Michael Dickson, from the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: “I think realistically the reasons for frustration from the Ambulance Service are from crews having to wait when they should be out on the road, waiting outside accident and emergency when they should be out on the road caring for other patients.

“So, we really welcome initiatives to reduce that length of time ambulances are stacking outisde.”

Sandra Macleod, Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We’ve had lots of pressures right across the system. We’ve had a very busy hospital, particulary the past year, there’s hardly been any respite from that.

“We’ve had a higher volume of patients in, they’ve been sicker, and therefore our hospital has remained full.

“What that’s meant is our ambulances, when they’ve brought patients to the front door, we’ve bewn unable to get them in.

“What this plan is, is to help that equalise across the system.”

NHS Grampian said 18 new beds are available at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with a further 18 expected in the new year.

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